We have seen that in the course of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Middle Eastern terrorism (including terrorist acts carried out elsewhere by Middle Eastern groups inspired by Middle Eastern agendas) varied widely in its goals, its methods, and its effectiveness. We have also seen that the political effectiveness of terrorist activities has by no means been in correspondence with the physical destruction or death caused by a terrorist act.
The single deadliest terrorist act of recent years was arguably the midair bombing and destruction of Pan Am Flight 103, which led to the deaths of all aboard the aircraft as well as several people in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, where the plane crashed to earth--a total of nearly three hundred lives lost in all, as well as the destruction of the plane (Emerson, 1990). In further indirect consequence, Pan American Airlines was hastened into bankruptcy, in part due to the bad publicity resulting from the bombing, and in part due to the prospective insurance and other costs associated with the loss of Flight 103.
Yet the bombing of Pan Am 103 brought no perceptible political benefits to those who carried it out. The ultimate measure of the bombing's ineffectiveness as a political act is that the exact identity of the bombers has never been established to general satisfaction. The United States government blamed Libya, and demanded the extradition of two Libyan intelligence officers alleged to be behind the bombing. Other observers, however, saw links to Syria, while others still suspected an Iranian connection. Now, in the shadowy world of state-sponsored terrorism, any or all of these parties may have been involved to one degree or another. The extremist Palestinian groups that probably carried out the actual bombing do not confine themselves to a single sponsor, and all three suspect nations have been involved in supporting such groups.
No state or group, however, stepped forwar...